A trust is a legally recognized means through which rights attached to property ownership can be separated and transferred; a concept whereby the control and benefit to or enjoyment of property is separated. A trust can be a good way to preserve your wealth for your family and children. A well-managed trust will make sure that anyone who is a beneficiary of the trust benefits from it. The trustees have the important job to administer the trust and its assets objectively with the best interests of the beneficiaries in mind.
Trusts and their administration fall under the Trust Property Control Act no 57/1988.
What types of trusts are there?
It’s important to note that there are two types of trusts. An inter vivos trust and a testamentary trust. A testamentary trust is one that’s formed from the will of a deceased person. In the case of a testamentary trust the deceased’s last will serves as the trust document. An inter vivos trust is created between living persons, and will form the basis of this article. Inter vivos trusts can limit estate duty and preserve your assets and wealth for your descendants. Certain financial institutions assist in setting up a trust and can act as trustees.
Registering an inter vivos trust
To register an inter vivos trust with the Master of the High Court, the following documents must be lodged.
These documents are also required for the Master to issue the trustees with letters of authority for administering the trust. A trustee may not proceed to administer the trust without the written authority of the Master.
If the trust’s assets or majority of its assets are located in a particular area, then the inter vivos trust has to be registered with the Master who has jurisdiction in that area.
De-registering of a trust
The Master can de-register the trust only once it has been terminated. The common law makes provision for the termination of a trust as the Trust Property Control Act makes no such provision. The following circumstances can be grounds for a trust to be terminated:
You will still need the original letter of authority, bank statements reflecting a nil balance on the final statement and proof that the beneficiaries have received their benefits.
Administering the trust
Trustees are required to comply with the Trust Deed and Trust Property Control Act, which determines how trusts should be administered and the role of the trustees. If trustees fail to comply with the Act they may face criminal prosecution. The trustees have to always act with the best interests of the beneficiaries in mind.
Some legal requirements of trustees include not being able to make secret profits, taking care and being objective when administering trust assets and always acting in good faith.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)
Justice.gov.za. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Administration of Trusts. [online] Available at: http://www.justice.gov.za/master/trust/ [Accessed 19/05/2016].
Sanlam.co.za. Sanlam Trusts. [online] Available at: https://www.sanlam.co.za/personal/financialplanning/willstrustsestates/Pages/trusts/ [Accessed 20/05/2016].